Alexander City Schools Superintendent Dr. Beverly Price declared vaping and related-smoking habits a serious issue during a regularly called board of education meeting Thursday, November 17.
“Last year, we noticed a huge uptick in vaping in our high school. Vaping had the highest number of incidents, so we do have a problem,” Price said.
As such, the school board approved a partnership last week with KinderVision
Foundation to help combat vaping in local schools.
Dr. Marilyn Lewis addressed board members as a representative of the nonprofit organization during the board meeting last week. Lewis is a retired employee of the Alabama State Department of Education and previously served as the department’s education, prevention and support services administrator.
Lewis explained that through a grant supplied by the Alabama Department of Public Health, the KinderVision Foundation plans to launch an awareness campaign in five school systems across the state, including Alexander City Schools, focused on discouraging vaping and related-smoking habits.
Before delving further, however, Lewis first delved into the scope of the problem among the young populations. According to Lewis, 3.6 million U.S. school children have engaged in vaping over the last 30 days, statistically, and of that figure, nearly 20 percent likely comprised high school students.
Despite the mass appeal, Lewis described vaping and e-cigarettes as products “in disguise.”
“Vaping is any use of an electronic nicotine device, and when we inhale a vape, we exhale chemicals that we are learning now are unsafe. This is not an alternative to a cigarette,” she said.
According to Lewis’ presentation, e-cigarettes contain cancer-causing chemicals that can be inhaled by non-users, creating a second-hand smoking risk. Furthermore, for users, Lewis noted in addition to harmful chemicals that vaping can transform into an addictive substance.
For instance, Lewis added that one pod of e-liquid has the same amount of nicotine as one pack of cigarettes. However, Lewis attributed vaping’s popularity to the substance’s enticing flavors and discrete canisters. According to Lewis, tobacco companies inconspicuously model vaping devices for easier concealment.
“We have items that look like lollipops, juice boxes and Sour Patch [Kids]. Items that are disguised for our young people,” Lewis said. “So there is a big market for young people, but by providing education, we offset the opportunity for students to begin using.”
Through a school partnership, Lewis hopes to address the issue and provide students with an effective prevention program.
“This grant will allow us to review Alexander City’s board policy on tobacco products and make some recommendations to support students,” she said. “Then there’s a curriculum that allows us to come into grades nine through 12 and deliver education on vaping and tobacco products.”
Price praised the initiative and encouraged the school system’s board of education to advance with the program.
“I think it’s something that’s really necessary because we want to educate as opposed to having to discipline, and we want to be proactive,” Price said.